Spike to Air Viacom’s New MMA Shows

Spike TV has pinned down live mixedmartial-
arts content to replace programming from the
departing Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The male-targeted network will air live fights from the
Chicago-based Bellator Fighting Championships outfit
beginning in 2013, as Spike parent
Viacom last week purchased
a majority interest in the franchise,
said Spike TV president
Kevin Kay.

Kay would not disclose terms
of the Viacom/Bellator purchase,
but said the agreement is
a win-win for both parties. The
three-year-old Bellator franchise
— which features an elimination
tournament format over
seven different weight classes, as
opposed to individual championship matches like the
UFC — gives the network an MMA franchise to replace
UFC, which inked a seven-year distribution deal with Fox
Sports this past August. Under that deal, UFC will move
its live events and shoulder programming, such as reality
series The Ultimate Fighter, to FX from Spike starting
next year.

Spike still has rights to UFC library content through
2012, according to network officials.

For Bellator, which currently airs live matches on the
nearly 80 million-subscriber MTV2 and premium service
Epix — as well as online, via SpikeTV.com — the move
to the 99 million-subscriber Spike TV will give its fighters
greater exposure. MTV2’s live Saturday-night Bellator
matches average more than 200,000
viewers, according to Viacom.

Spike’s UFC live events over its sixyear
run with the MMA franchise averaged
more than 2 million viewers,
according to the network.

“[The Viacom investment in Bellator]
shows that we’re invested and
committed in the space of mixed martial
arts,” Kay said. “We have the right
platform — we know that guys and
women have come to Spike for MMA
content under one promotion, and we
think they’ll stick with us for another one.”

Kay said neither the network nor Viacom would be involved
in the day-to-day operations of Bellator. Rather,
the channels will get the opportunity to build multiplatform
value for an in-house property.

“We’re not fight promoters or matchmakers here —
we’re a media network, and we’ll let [Bellator CEO Bjorn
Rebney] manage that part of the business,” Kay said.
“What we bring to the table is the platform and the marketing

Kay said Spike will look to work with other Viacomowned
networks to find other distribution opportunities
for Bellator content.

The Bellator deal comes as Spike looks to play more
aggressively in the live sports arena. Earlier this month,
the network hired Jon Slusser as its senior vice president,
sports and multiplatform programming to oversee
the network’s push to acquire distribution rights to live
sports programming that would appeal to its core male
18-49 audience.

The network also last week hired producer Alex Eastburg
as vice president of original series, responsible for
overseeing development of nonscripted series.

Eastburg most recently served as co-executive producer
on Spike TV’s reality series Car Lot Cowboy, and
has also co-executive produced such reality shows as
Spike’s DEA, TLC Sarah Palin’s Alaska and Tru TV’s Tiger

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.